Unplugged

Editorial by Doug Manzelmann outlines challenges facing electric car introduction.

Published: 01-Feb-2009

When General Motors executives appeared before Congress to plead their case for a federal loan package, they bet the automaker's future on its electric car, the Volt. For the first 40 miles, the car will run on a battery alone. After that, the Volt's four-cylinder gas engine takes over, charging the battery and allowing the car to travel 640 miles before its owner needs to gas up or plug in.

Sounds promising, doesn't it? But what doesn't get discussed much in all the talk about going green and reducing America's addiction to foreign oil are all the hurdles that must be jumped before the Volt or any other electric vehicle becomes the preferred way to travel.

An obvious weak point is cost. GM's Volt will be priced at about $40,000, according to Robert A. Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development. That's double the cost of the Toyota Prius. How does GM expect the car to be successful, especially given Toyota's brand power and the Prius' record?

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